Coney Island in Monochrome: The Photography of Lauren Welles

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All photographs by Lauren Welles are used with permission.

New York City is one of those few places in the U.S. where you can move through different cultures, cuisines and classes just by going on a walk. For Lauren Welles, a lawyer turned photographer, the streets of the city are an endless trove of photographs. For Lauren, however, Coney Island is the one place in the city where everyone comes together.

At first, the neighborhood appealed to her because she wanted to get away from the hubbub of the city, and she wasn’t too keen on photographing the place, seeing as it has been captured countless times before.

“Yet as soon as I arrived,” Welles said, “I felt that special energy that is synonymous with Coney Island and saw endless characters and stories, just waiting to be told.”

With her camera in hand, she made well over 1,000 images of sun-hungry city dwellers and visitors looking to have fun. She worked digitally, shooting in color and then converting to black & white in post. Welles initially thought she would stay with color as Coney Island is an inherently colorful space, but color can often hold the viewer’s attention more than what’s actually in the frame.

“I wanted to simplify the frame so that viewers could focus on its composition and intended subjects, without distraction,” Welles said.

As a result, Welles managed to create an impressive series of black and white photographs that debunk the notion that people shouldn’t use digital for black and white. The focus is on the characters, from families and friends to guys working out and Coney Island itself.

In her artist’s statement for the project, she quotes George Cornelius Tilyou, a theme park businessman, who spent most of his life in Coney Island.

“‘If Paris is France, then Coney Island, between June and September, is the world.’ – George Tilyou, 1886

Welles then writes, “Despite the incessant predictions of its demise, Coney Island continues to attract visitors of all races, social classes and ethnicities who, seeking respite from their quotidian stresses and routines, inject the veins of “America’s Playground” with its celebrated joie de vivre.”

Scroll down for more photos from the project.

Check out more from the Coney Island series here, and for more of Welles’ work, head over to her website.

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